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Xavier Smerdon
Journalist
Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.
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Tuesday, 3rd March 2015 at 10:56 am

McClure Report – An Easy Way Out on Disability

By Xavier Smerdon, Journalist

The McClure Report into welfare reform, at first glance, sounds wonderful but the detail does nothing to stop the demonization of marginalised people, writes systemic advocate for inclusive practices,Tricia Malowney who is calling on the Abbott Government for an American style response to equal opportunity.

The McClure Report, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes, does at first glance sound wonderful. It outlines what is needed as:

“An integrated approach … which builds on four pillars of reform:

  •       Simpler and sustainable income support system
  •       Strengthening individual and family capability
  •       Engaging with employers
  •       Building community capacity”

So thank you Patrick McClure for stating the bleeding obvious. Rather than engaging with employers, how about about making them employ us, and rather than building community capacity, how about stopping demonization of marginalised people.

I have to admit I’d only read the executive summary, and it really looked great, but once you get into the detail you realise that McClure has taken the easy way out, vilification of marginalised Australians, particularly Australians with disabilities in the guise of helping them.  

Have a look at the consultations that were undertaken, it is clear that “nothing about us without us” was not on their radar. The majority of the consultations were with service providers.

Reducing the 20 odd pensions and 50 + supplements into 5 streams sounds terrific. Until you realise that there is going to be a standalone category for “Carer” which will mean that once again Australians with Disabilities are going to be considered to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Where is the consideration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is supposed to enable “carers” to get back to work.  It would seem that a reference group of three, who have no real understanding of what it is like to be marginalised, has just set the Disability cause back. Or do they know something we don’t?

There have been rumblings that the NDIS is going to be reduced.  Perhaps this report will give them the excuse they need.

The McClure report is simply following the current Government line that Australians with disabilities are leaners not lifters. Fears of being “Trigged” perhaps.

Strengthening individual and family capability sounds really good too.  The report outlines three distinct skill sets that an individual needs to succeed in the workplace.

These are:

  •       technical or discipline specific skills
  •       language, literacy and numeracy skills
  •       employability skills

See there is always an assumption is that marginalised Australians are at fault for not being skilled enough or employable enough, and that is why we income support.  Oh we are skilled enough and ready to work, but it’s hard to get a job when every time you front up to the interview, they see that you are deaf, or blind, or in a wheelchair or have mental health issues, or are short statured or can’t speak without a communication board. Somehow, there is always a better candidate.  

Even though the research shows that we are better workers, more reliable etc, as outlined in the report.

But it also needs to be acknowledged that there is no mention of the vulnerability of homeless women or family violence as a factor in a reliance on income support.  

It’s hard to maintain employment when you are always looking over your shoulder for the ex partner to appear, or when you are living in your car with the kids because the ex has kicked you out, or when you are living in a motel because there aren’t enough refuges.

It’s hard to get a job when you are homeless because of abuse at home, or your parents kick you out when you are 16, because that’s when they left home. Middle class assumptions that all families are perfect.  

Six years without a payment until you turn 22 is not useful.  Well how do you think you can get a job when you are couch surfing, or living under a bridge?   

What I need to see is a real commitment to forcing Australian employers to hire us, and to take into account the circumstances in which we live now.  I’d like to see some of the initiatives that have been applied in America applied here.  

OK, I realise that there will be push back because they use terms like “affirmative action”, but bugger it, we know that equal opportunity doesn’t work.

So this is what I’d like to see Tony Abbott to include in his response to the McClure Report:

American commitment

In the USA President Obama has signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to take record of labor and employment law violations into account when awarding contracts, and placing new reporting burdens on government contractors.[i]

Proposed Australian Response

All procurement and funding agreements must ensure that Disability Action Plans are in place and that the employment of Australians with disabilities are key a part of such plans

American commitment

“If you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty,” Obama said. “This executive order will cover Americans with disabilities because this principle doesn’t just apply to some of us, it applies to all of us.” [ii]The original Executive Order excluded Americans with disabilities, but it was changed after pressure from advocacy groups.

Proposed Australian Response

Minimum wages must be paid to Australians with disabilities.  Procurement and funding agreements must ensure that companies who are awarded contract pay employees with disabilities at award rates which to enable leave income support.

American commitment

“ Federal government efforts for Americans with disabilities has three goals ­– reducing discrimination against Americans living with a disability, eliminating the stigma associated with disability and encouraging Americans with disabilities to seek employment in the federal workforce – [iii]”

Proposed Australian Response

The Government recognises that discrimination against Australians with disabilities, the stigma of having a disability and the lack of commitment by all levels of Government has contributed to the underemployment of Australians with disabilities.  All levels of Government will be required to give priority to Australians with disabilities when seek to add staff, and that it will be mandatory to employ Australians with disabilities and family members as advisors.

Of course, I have a couple of other responses that might be worth including.

Participants in reference groups must be paid for their work.

Volunteer employees must be given preference when paid work is available

Marginalised people providing policy advice must be paid for their work.

I know that I am dreaming. This government is not really committed to ensuring that marginalised Australians are able to leave the income support arena.

Let’s face it when the Government is facing a hard time with their economic failure, or the battle over Tony Abbott’s leadership, or yet another disastrous gaff from him they can rely on two things.

Terrorism and the demonization of marginalised Australians to take the heat off Tony.

But we shouldn’t be worrying too much, after the appalling leadership of Kevin Andrews, under Scott Morrison apparently the homeless and Australians with disabilities will all be moving to Manus Island.

[i] http://www.affirmativeactionlawadvisor.com/2014/07/31/breaking-news-president-obama-signs-executive-order-requiring-federal-agencies-to-take-record-of-labor-and-employment-law-violations-into-account-when-awarding-contracts-and-placing-new-reporting-bu/

[ii] http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/02/12/under-order-pay-hike/19102/

[iii] http://jvschicago.org/will-federal-leadership-on-improving-opportunities-for-people-with-disabilities-start-a-trend/

 

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Xavier Smerdon
Journalist
Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.
0 Comments

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